THE men’s hockey national team edged an inch closer to qualifying for the All Africa Games after beating Zimbabwe 3-2 in the Central and Southern Africa qualifiers at the ongoing championships in Zimbabwe.

Goals apiece from Alfred Mphande, Philimon Bwali and Andrew Moyo were enough for the coach Elvis Bwalya tutored side to earn maximum points.

Zambia will only need a point against Malawi this Saturday to book a slot at the All Africa Games.

Bwalya described the victory as sweet and a step towards achieving qualification.

“It was a fight between two sides with technique and I’m glad that we went into the match with full force and it paid off. The boys fought from start to finish and that was our strategy going into the game. We knew Zimbabwe would come at us hence we planned to play a fast – passing game,” Bwalya said.

He said the team has with immediate effect shifted attention to the Malawi game on Saturday.

“Yes we only need a point in the game against Malawi but we shall take the game very seriously. We anticipate an upset from Malawi but we shall plan on how best to get a positive result,” said Bwalya.

And Philimon Bwali who was voted man of the match said the win gives the team confidence heading into the Malawi encounter.

“It was a good game, very fast and physical but we managed to get the result which is good for us. The win has given us confidence heading into the Malawi game this Saturday. We have to finish strong and qualify because everyone home is expecting us to qualify,” said Bwali.

Meanwhile on the pitch, Zambia got an early lead as early as the second minute through Alfred Mphande who finished off a Floyd Chomba pass at the edge of the arc but Zimbabwe levelled matters through Kanyangarara Tatenda seven minutes later.

Action continued with both teams missing numerous chances in front of goal, Floyd Chomba and Mphande being the major culprits.

The second and third quarters saw both teams create numerous scoring opportunities but failed to convert them.

Philimon Bwali restored Zambia’s lead in the 54th minute with a beautiful strike from close range after he had swayed through between two defenders before unleashing a shot for Zambia to lead.

The goal gave the Bwalya tutored side confidence with Andrew Moyo scoring the third goal for Zambia in the 57th minute to add some icing on the cake.

Tendayi Maridza scored Zimbabwe’s second but time was not on their side.